Lightbulb Moments and Darth Vader Ads

Did you see the VW commercial during the super bowl? The one with the mini-Darth Vader ? I’ve linked to it below but to recap: Our little villain tries in vain to use his powers to control everything from a doll to his dog to his lunch before finally finding success (he thinks) in starting his father’s VW.

Here it is:

The commercial is a smart one and its ability  – through shoulder shrugs and defeated poses  – to convey the child’s disappointment in his seeming lack of ability and the shock when he believes he’s finally done it  is incredible considering that we never see his face (he’s wearing the infamous Vader mask).

But there was another image in the commercial that stuck with me.

Do you remember the part where he tries to move the lunch plate? He has exerted about 2 seconds of effort when his mother, in one small maneuver, crushes him.

He is exerting all his power to move it himself and she without putting down the jar slides it towards him.

I know it’s just a commercial but in that split second I saw myself. I’ve been that mom.

Have you?

You see your child struggling to do something and instead of making them a winner in that moment you do what comes naturally when you’re busy and they’re acting crazy and you just can’t deal….you make it easy for them.

It’s something I noticed just this weekend as I traveled with the family to Carnaval in Quebec City.

There was not a 30 second pause between their continuous callings of my name. “Mom? Mom? Mommmmm? “ The reasons varied.

“Where’s my pencil?”

“Where are my headphones?”

“Have you seen my book?”

It was an 8- hour train ride from Toronto to Quebec City and except for brief moments of this:

zombie movie kids

Could've fixed the red eyes but think it illustrates the point, no?

or this:

Sleeping Via Rail kids

the needy questions continued for the whole ride.

“Can I have a drink?”

“Can I move my chair back?”

“Can I have a candy?”

When they weren’t asking for things they were responding to my commands.

“Keep your feet in! Pick up your toy! Inside Voice!”

And it’s only when I got home Sunday night, exhausted, and saw the commercial again that it dawned on me.

With every command, every attempt to control their behaviour I was mindlessly pushing “that sandwich” towards them. l am raising kids who have become so accustomed to me making it easier for them – traveling with their snacks, carrying their books, having Kleenex in my pocket, struggling to have the answer for every question, an agenda for every need – that they’ve realized there isn’t much left to do.

I’m still treating them like their babies and they’re not.

And every time I do that I take away a little bit of their power.

That was never my intention of course; I just wanted to help.

This week I’m “helping” less.

We’ve had a talk about responsibilities and I’m going to try to give them room to test it out even if I suspect it may result in failure, even if I know it would be so much faster if I did it myself.

This week I going to let them use their force … even if it kills me.

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{ 16 comments… add one }

Anonymous February 8, 2011, 5:58 PM

I say no…a lot. I sometimes come off as the mean mom, but my philosophy is that as soon as you can do for yourself, I’m not doing it anymore. I fall off the wagon occasionally, especially when their dawdling is making us late, but for the most part I want them to know they can do it on their own.


Heather Greenwood Davis February 8, 2011, 6:27 PM

See. I thought I was doing that but I’m thinking that from the number of questions I’m somehow not communicating to them well enough that they can trust their own decision-making skills.


karengreeners February 8, 2011, 6:02 PM

Oh, I am that mom. It’s not even a control thing; I just do it by instinct. I forget that they are 5 and 3 yrs, not 5 or 3 months. Hope I’m not stunting their development too badly.


Heather Greenwood Davis February 8, 2011, 6:28 PM

Yup. me too. I’ll keep you posted on how this new “responsibilities” thing works out. Is it bad that this morning I told the 6-year old he can only ask me 3 “where is…” questions a day? too far? sigh.


Kerry Nicol February 8, 2011, 6:20 PM

This blog so unbelievably mirrored the “Aha moment” I had this week with my kids I’m still shocked. I realized how much I am the cause of so much of my own frustration because I force them to depend on me!! I’m very much the recovering “helpful mom” thanks that lightbulb going off. So well put. Thanks!


Heather Greenwood Davis February 8, 2011, 6:29 PM

Hey Kerry,
Glad it resonated. Took me a while to hit “publish” on this one because I do get that it is “only” a commercial. Your comment makes me glad I did. Curious…what are you going to do about it? anything?


Kerry Nicol February 8, 2011, 6:44 PM

I’ve already had a talk with the kids and told them I’m going to try to do less for them and “let” them take on more responsibility. I think I put it in such a way that they’ll feel I’m giving them wings rather than loading on the work :) I explained, too, that they are completely capable of doing things themselves but I’ve just been automatically doing everything for them (taking the blame instead of assigning it). Tried to make it sound as positive as I could. I also loaded it in with the need to cut down on electronic obsessions in our house to allow more time for other pursuits. Momma was on a roll that day.


Heather Greenwood Davis February 8, 2011, 6:55 PM

Ha! Funny enough I attached the “cutting down on electronics” speech to mine too! I guess it’s the follow through that will be the real test on both issues.

Reply February 9, 2011, 12:13 PM

Ugh! I am soooo this mom! I think once they start to out number you it gets easier to just do it for them rather than wait for them to do it.

I need to get better at this. Independence is such an amazing gift we can give our children and while I can’t imagine any of the moms I know saying they want to raise a “dependent” child we can all find ourselves in this commercial.

You’re right, point taken, now on to do some constructive parenting. First task – learning to pick up their own toys!


Heather Greenwood Davis February 9, 2011, 12:45 PM

If nothing else I’m definitely more aware of when I’m “doing it for them” these days. Caught myself serving them dinner last night. Dropped the spoon mid-serving and reminded them they need to do it themselves.
What’s clear to me is it’s not them…it’s us. I feel it has a lot to do with letting go of a phase of motherhood – the one where we HAD to do it for them.


Anonymous February 10, 2011, 5:01 PM

Oh, I can so relate! My DD is 12 and I find myself still doing things for her that she can very well do for herself.
That was one of my new year resolutions – giving her more responsibility. It only helps both of us in the long run; it is hard, but it is getting easier, :)


Heather Greenwood Davis February 12, 2011, 3:18 PM

It’s funny how long it can take the heart to catch up to the head isn’t it?


Bethchristie February 10, 2011, 5:33 PM

I can totally relate. my hubby is constantly telling me to back off and to stop babying our kids, especially our 9 yr old son. I can’t help it though. It’s one of the many ways I express my love for them. I totally got a wake up call this fall when our 9 yr old entered gr4 and was not prepared to be more independent and responsible. It was a tough first term but I backed off and rather than doing everything for him, I showed him how and provided tips. he’s come a long way. I guess I was trying to keep him my baby forever. :)


Heather Greenwood Davis February 12, 2011, 3:20 PM

Thanks for the comment Beth. It helps to know they’re so resilient. And it all stems from love so it can’t do too much damage, right?


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